My life would be better off if the NFL didn't exist.
I don't say this lightly, as I was just as excited for the return of professional football as anyone in the world. There's almost nothing, entertainment wise, that I enjoy more than turning on five different games on five different devices at 1:00 PM on Sunday, following the rest via Yahoo StatTracker and rooting for my favorite team, players on my fantasy teams, and teams I placed bets on. On the typical NFL Sunday, I'll be in front of a plethora of screens for about 10 hours consecutively, and I would have it no other way.
Unfortunately, the first two weeks of the 2021 NFL season has been very unkind to me. I'm going to break down what has gone wrong for me in this young season. This will be more of a vent than an article, but I need to release my frustration upon my keyboard before I take it out on my insufferable roommate and fellow BSSR writer, Alex.
To organize my thoughts and prevent myself from rambling on forever, I will discuss my football woes within the following three categories: team loyalty, fantasy football, and betting. These are the three pillars of the NFL for me. The three stakes that I hammer deep into the ground and embed my fandom within. Without these three core tenets, I would have no desire to watch the NFL. There would be nothing to which I could attach my human sentiments.
My love for the spectacle of the NFL resides in the convergence of these three entities. If my team triumphs, and my fantasy teams prevail, and my bets cash, then all is right on Monday morning. Order is restored. However, if my team fails, and my fantasy teams flop, and my bets flounder, then a perfect storm of rage is concocted. Chaos ensues.
And that is what has happened in weeks 1 and 2 of this season.
I am a Colts fan. That's all there is to say for this section. On to the next part.
Just kidding (kind of).
As a long time fan of the Indianapolis Colts, I was spoiled for the first two decades of my life with unbelievable quarterback play. Peyton Manning, who I still think is the greatest QB of all time, led the team from 1998 to 2011. And in that time, he brought Indianapolis a Super Bowl. He would have won more, if not for the New England Patriots and a subpar defense his entire Colt career. After a year of futility when Manning underwent neck surgery, the Colts drafted Andrew Luck, who was poised to become the next superstar quarterback. And he was well on his way, until he retired less than a month before the 2019 season because the Colts' front office wouldn't provide him with a decent O-line to prevent him from being constantly injured. I don't blame the guy for his decision, but I frequently imagine what could have been with Mr. Luck.
Fast forward just over 2 years, and we open the 2021 season with our third starting quarterback in as many years, after the previous two didn't quite cut it. I was cautiously optimistic that Carson Wentz could be the guy. The man who would be reunited with his former offensive coordinator and return to his former league MVP form. We were supposed to have a dominant offensive line, a stout defense, and legit weapons on offense.
And that's when the injuries began. First, Carson Wentz. Then, Quenton Nelson (with the exact same injury). Then, T.Y. Hilton. Not to mention the fact that Darius Leonard and Eric Fisher were trying to make their way back from injury at the same time. And we might as well throw on top of that the perpetually injured Parris Campbell, who I don't think has played more than two full games since he's been here (we drafted him ahead of D.K. Metcalf AND A.J. Brown, by the way). It appeared that our season was coming to a close before it even got the chance to begin.
But then, the roller coaster continued. Wentz and Nelson returned to practice and were on schedule to start in week 1. Darius Leonard made it back. Parris Campbell was finally healthy (for a short time). Eric Fisher would only miss one or two games at most. As the regular season grew nearer, my optimism for the Colts grew stronger.
That optimism dwindled as Indy's opening game against the Seahawks continued to unfold. We looked good on our opening drive, marching right down the field in 9 minutes of game time, but had to settle for a field goal in a goal-to-go situation. Everything went downhill from there. Our offensive line got torched by Seattle's pass rush, the defense allowed a couple huge plays that gave the Seahawks momentum, and TWICE, we failed on a fourth down while within field goal range in the second half. I'm generally a fan of Frank Reich's offensive aggressiveness, but if he just takes the points on those two drives, it's potentially an entirely different game.
I shook off the Colts' opening loss as a game where the team was just settling in and trying to get familiar with each other in live regular season action. We had our chances to score and to win, but just didn't take advantage of them. I thought we'd bounce back against the Rams in week 2, but sadly, that game offered even more of the same.
Once again, Indianapolis took the ball to start the game and drove right to the brink of the goal line. In fact, we had first and goal from the ONE yard line. Yet we came away with ZERO points. The Rams scored a TD on their first drive and we answered with a field goal. Then, after a Matthew Stafford interception on the second play of their second drive, the Colts started their drive inside Rams territory and charged right up to the goal line again. What happened this time? ZERO points again after an interception of fourth and goal. Two trips inside the opposing five yard line, and ZERO points to show for it!
Interestingly enough, Carson Wentz looked spectacular in the second half, evading tacklers and throwing darts as he tried to lead the comeback. And the Colts did, in fact, take the lead in the fourth quarter after a punt block touchdown. About halfway through the fourth quarter, Wentz led the team down for a field goal to tie the game at 24. However, on the final play of that drive, he went down awkwardly and sprained both of his ankles (I'm not even sure how that's possible). This forced backup QB Jacob Eason into the game to try to mount a game-tying or game-winning drive. He threw a pick on his second play in the game, effectively ending the Colts' chance at a win.
So to summarize, my team is 0-2 to start the season after competing with and having a chance to win against two good teams from the NFC West. And to make matters even worse, our bitter division rivals, the Titans, lucked into a win in week 2 against the very same Seahawks who beat us. I can't stand the Titans.
My Fantasy Teams
I'm in three fantasy leagues this season. I really just wanted to be in two leagues, because when you get into more than that, you start playing against players who are on your teams in other leagues and lose track of who you should even be pulling for. But alas, it is impossible for me to decline an invitation to join a fantasy football league.
Now, not to brag, but I do pretty well in my fantasy leagues year in and year out. I've almost always finished in the top 3 or so by the end of the playoffs and I have several titles to my name. So I like to think I know what I'm doing in that aspect. However, I have yet to win a matchup in fantasy football across all of my leagues. That's right, through two weeks, my teams are a combined 0-6. That has, without a doubt, never happened to me in my fantasy football career, even when I've only been involved in two leagues. I've never started winless through two weeks in multiple leagues EVER. If anything, I typically draft really good teams and start out the season strong before injuries, byes, and other issues cool my teams down. So the fact that I'm winless this season is an anomaly.
Here are my three rosters for reference:
(Please ignore the second team with Jameis Winston on my bench. He is dead to me and I'm in the process of dropping him for any other quarterback with a functional Prefrontal Cortex.)
It would be one thing if I didn't think I had good teams, but that's not the case. It's worth noting that in my Yahoo league, I played against the only team who scored more points than my team did for that week, so part of my woes are definitely attributed to poor matchup luck.
The thing I find funniest about this fantasy season is that I went up to draft quarterbacks in two of my leagues much earlier than I typically do. Those two selections were Josh Allen, who has had a rather lethargic start to 2021, and Aaron Rodgers, who apparently decided he would wait until week 2 to begin playing (his week 2 performance didn't mean anything to me by the way, because I was already trailing by about 70 going into his Monday night game).
I've fended off trades from my aforementioned arch nemesis, Alex, in one of my leagues, as he tried to kick me while I was down and scam me into throwing away the only pieces of hope I have in that league. But I will not give in to those shenanigans. This monologue has been rather pessimistic until now, but that stops here. You will never see a fantasy General Manager work as hard as I will work for the rest of the season to improve my teams and lead them to wins (Tim Tebow voice). Our season turns around in week 3, and then we will carry our momentum into week 4 where I will wipe the floor with Alex's team and write about it afterward.
I will revisit this article in a few months when I've won all three leagues to boast about my incredible turnarounds after such unfortunate starts to the season.
The optimism expressed in the last section will be short-lived, unfortunately.
If you follow along with my weekly NFL betting columns, first of all, I'm sorry. Secondly, you'll know that we haven't started off on a very good note. My overall betting record so far is 5-7, which isn't terrible I suppose considering I lost my first four bets of the season in week 1. While I have had a decent rebound since then, my Locks of the Week, which are the single bets I am most confident in each week, have both missed already (thank you Chris Godwin and Jameis Winston). In my next betting article coming later this week, I will be officially renaming that pick the Fade of the Week due to the utter futility I've experienced with my locks.
I won't get into the normal betting losses I've suffered, as there has definitely been some misfortune in some of the results but that's just how betting goes. But I do want to talk a little bit about the two "locks." I already posted a rant after the NFL's opening game of the season where I discussed in full my frustrations with the lack of a Buccaneers cover, which was my week 1 Lock. You can read that here:
But I have not discussed the most recent lock that failed to hit, which was the Saints at -3.5 at the Panthers. New Orleans had just decimated the Packers at a neutral site in week 1, and I thought they would go into Charlotte and continue to roll. Their defense was incredible against Green Bay and they were able to do anything they wanted to on offense. Jameis Winston threw five touchdown passes, though he only had 150 passing yards and 50 of them came on one play. Regardless, I assumed Sean Payton was going to open up the playbook and let the ball fly around in Carolina. I was wrong. The Saints looked abysmal on both sides of the ball. Jameis Winston appeared to be the worst quarterback in the league, making terrible decisions to end drives when it looked like his team had a chance to grab some momentum. They never had a chance in this game and to make matters even worse, I picked up Winston and started him in one of my fantasy leagues.
But my betting woes don't end there.
I typically only actually place money on the bets I write about on this website. However, I received a promo on Draftkings on Monday that I could use for that night's matchup between the Lions and Packers. I decided to play a same game parlay and chose three bets to pair together: The Lions +11.5, the over 48.5, and T.J. Hockenson as an anytime touchdown scorer. I would get a 7-times return on my investment if this bet cashed. I thought the Packers would win, but after losing 38-3 in week 1, I didn't like them to cover a number that big. However, I knew Aaron Rodgers would bounce back and put up some points against a weak Lions defense, and Detroit proved they can score with Jared Goff under center as they amassed 33 points of their own in their season opening loss to the 49ers. The reason I threw in Hockenson to score a touchdown was because in the only fantasy league I still had a chance to win, I had D'Andre Swift and my opponent had Hockenson playing and we entered the night nearly even point wise. So I was going to at least benefit financially when Hockenson inevitably had a great game and caused me to lose, yet again, in fantasy this season.
In the first half, I was spot on with my predictions. I thought my luck was starting to turn around. The Lions drove right down the field and scored, and the Packers did the same. Then, midway through the second quarter, just as I expected, Hockenson caught a touchdown pass (this obviously led to my demise in fantasy for that league, as anticipated). At halftime, the Detroit was up by 3, a total of 31 points had been scored, and my touchdown scorer bet was already secured. I thought that there was no way I would lose this time around. Not even the Lions could mess this up for me.
And then the second half started.
First GB drive: touchdown.
First DET drive: turnover on downs at the GB 25-yard line.
Second GB drive: touchdown.
Second DET drive: lost fumble on the snap on the first play of the drive.
Third GB drive: touchdown.
Just like that, in barely more than 15 minutes of game time, the Lions were down by 18 and needed another touchdown in order to cover. They had their chances, including a late game heave to the end zone on Detroit's final play of the game which looked like it was going to be caught but was knocked away at the last second by Green Bay. Enough points were scored, my anytime touchdown scorer prop hit, but the Lions failed to cover. It was the metaphorical icing on the cake of my disastrous beginning two weeks of the NFL season. Hopefully, that disaster will recede starting in week 3, or I might lose my mind.
Hopefully you are faring better this NFL season than I am, and the odds of that being the case are high. However, if you have suffered a similar fate as me the season has gotten under way, just know you are not alone. And remember, it's not how your team, your fantasy team, or your bets start the season, but how they finish the season.
Good luck to everyone in week 3. Except for the Titans and Jameis Winston.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.